Moves afoot in D.C. to cut Palestinian aid

Congress faces a July deadline on that legislation, which was enacted to ensure that the Palestinians comply with their accords with Israel.

The second measure is the foreign aid spending bill, which includes the $100 million — $75 million in cash assistance and $25 million in grants — to Yasser Arafat's government.

Congress has never embraced aid to the Palestinians, and most lawmakers vocal on the issue say the aid is only a necessary tool for Middle East peace.

But leading members of Congress responsible for foreign aid have expressed growing opposition to Palestinian aid amid reports of Palestinian corruption, Arafat's support for the death penalty for Arabs who sell land to Jews and his calls for Arab states to reimpose their Israel boycott.

The chairmen of Congress' two international relations committees, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last week that they would stop all aid to the Palestinians until Arafat and his justice minister "have withdrawn the proposed legislation barring the sale of private Arab land to Jews."

As a result, the State Department last week held up $1.25 million in 1997 aid, which was intended to train the Palestinian Finance Ministry. Gilman already has halted an additional $10 million.